"SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists" is a cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game about ethical insurgency against a fascist regime, taking place in a dystopian vision of 1980's America.
Players assume the role of Receivers, the superheroic vanguard of the Resistance, who possess incredible powers when in range of FM radio towers emitting a mysterious number sequence called "The Signal." When the Signal is up, Receivers lead the charge against battalions of Regime infantry and armor or serve as the People's Shield, protecting mass demonstrations from the brutality of a militarized police force and neo-Nazi hooligans. When the Signal is down, however, Receivers are mere mortals, desperately fleeing from a powerful state that senses their weakness.
It's called the Sigmata, a Signal-induced stigmata, because it is a both a blessing and a curse. At least when you're marked by the state, you can’t sit on the sidelines anymore.
SIGMATA takes place in a dystopian vision of America where fascists have taken control of the government. The Regime fosters white supremacy, religious bigotry, and Cold War hysteria to turn America's fury against already marginalized populations, all while plundering America's coffers and thrusting the country into pointless proxy wars all over the globe. To punish internal threats to "Real America," the Regime rewrote the U.S. Constitution to establish the Freedom Fist, a complete merger of military and law enforcement, which dutifully executes the fascists' national program of mass incarceration and deportation.
The communities targeted by state violence have begun to fight back. The Resistance is bolstered by an unlikely alliance of radical leftists, libertarian militias, religious activists, and wealthy entrepreneurs, whose grievances with the Regime overpower the seething contempt they have for each other. As linchpins of the Resistance, the Receivers must take great pains to prevent the alliance from fracturing. If they allow ideology to trump strategy, the factions will fall back on their worst tendencies, handing the Regime the political victories it needs to maintain a stranglehold on the people.
SIGMATA takes place in alt-1986, before the Internet was a thing, and at a time when less than 10% of American homes possessed a computer system. The retro technology of the 1980s is full of constraints that make for exciting stories about Resistance organizing; from seeking a payphone in a dangerous rural environment, to smuggling floppy disks of mission critical data through Regime checkpoints, to infiltrating corporate facilities in order to access room-sized mainframes, to recording amateur VHS videos of Regime atrocities and playing them on public access cable channels. The Resistance must organize using payphones, dial-up modems, bulletin board systems (BBS), floppy disks, pirate radio broadcasts, photocopied zines, and word of mouth, all while avoiding Regime forces using technology, influence, and intimidation to hunt them down.
As a foil to SIGMATA's dark political vision, the game delivers a satirical take on 1980s media, fashion, pop culture, and consumerism, complete with all the embarrassing chic, uncritical jingoism, and style-over-substance cool we've come to expect from 1980s period pieces. Expect playful nods to the 80s film that inspired this setting, including Robocop, Red Dawn, Terminator, War Games, Escape from New York, and Videodrome, among others.
Mechanically, SIGMATA is a hybrid of a traditional role-playing game and a narrativist story game. There is a game master (GM) involved, but players will be doing most of the storytelling. Players make decisions about what tactics and powers their Receivers employ during structured scenes of combat, stealth, and intrigue, but who gets to narrate the outcome of decisions depends on how well players do on their dice rolls. When a dice roll is required, a player rolls a combination of D10 and D6 dice, depending on her Receiver's four processors (i.e. Aggression, Guile, Judgement, and Valor), hoping to get a result of 6 or higher on each die. The more successes a player rolls, the more control she has over the outcome in the story space. Rolling a single success permits her to narrate a story of marginal success, complicated by an element of tension or stress that the GM contributes to the story. Rolling several success permits her to narrate a story of dramatic success, emphasizing how skilled, strong, or courageous her Receiver is, without input from the GM.
Players aren't just rolling dice for a chance to own the story; they are playing to win. Scenes of combat, intrigue, and stealth are structured in a way where each player needs to manage a resource called exposure. Exposure represents danger; the danger of getting caught during a stealth scene, the danger of getting injured during a combat scene, or the danger of being outed as a Resistance spy during an intrigue scene. Each turn, the GM makes moves to increase the Receivers' exposure. In response, each player selects a tactic, allowing her to either increase the enemy's exposure (cautiously or recklessly), reduce her own exposure, or reduce the exposure of one of her allies. The end result is exciting stories told with a narrativist approach, influenced by a tactical resource management mechanic that emphasizes risk/reward and teamwork.
Of course, this is a cyberpunk genre game as much as it is a period piece, so Receivers also rely on superheroic powers (subroutines), performance enhancing cybernetic modules (blade servers), iconic equipment (peripherals), and the evocation of fallen comrades (memory) to press through their most challenging ordeals against the Regime.
SIGMATA also features a strategic meta-game that charts the Resistance's progress in toppling the Regime, based on real counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine. The Resistance's efforts against the Regime's military forces mean nothing if they are not also winning over the local population and the international community. The strategic strength of the Resistance not only tracks campaign progress, but influences the strength of the Signal, which the Receivers rely upon to fuel their most dramatic abilities.
As an artistic work, SIGMATA attempts a merger of the gritty, cyberpunk styles of Akira with the vibrant colors and action-figure motifs of 1980s Saturday morning cartoons (e.g. G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.), all executed by the mighty Ario Murti. With Ario as the game's sole illustrator, expect maximum consistency and continuity of setting materials, quality, and mood.
The first six stretch goals will fund alternate-setting campaign modules for SIGMATA, all based on or inspired by actual people movements throughout history, and written by both up-and-coming and established game designers alike. Each PDF will feature a cover illustrated by Ario.
FUNDED! - $12,000 - "Black Snake Rebellion" by Ishki Ricard - Native Country remains under siege. To bolster their war efforts, the Regime has turned to uranium mining and pipeline construction on reservations. Indigenous lands and waters are being poisoned by toxic ore and perpetual oil spills bled from infrastructure protected by Freedom Fist battalions occupying the land. The indigenous resistance is fighting back, employing guerrilla media tactics to expose the destruction and quietly building a global movement of indigenous fighters over HAM radio and BBS. The Fist readies their riot shields and water cannons, while energy company propagandists prepare psychological operations. However, they have no idea what they are up against. The water is poisoned; Water is Life.
FUNDED! - $15,000 - "Cable Street" by G. Michael Truran - 1936. The British Union of Fascists claws its way to power, stoking the fires of hate in the Empire. Police watch in quiet complicity as uniformed super soldiers march through the streets of London, terrorizing any who dare raise their voice in opposition. It’s only a matter of time before the Blackshirts stage a final demonstration on the doorstep of the Resistance. Only a ragtag alliance of Jews, anarchists, socialists, and Irish dockworkers stand between them and ultimate victory. Little do the Blackshirts know, the Resistance has an ace up its sleeve: they too have received The Signal.
FUNDED! - $18,000 - "The Complex" by Shae Roberts - Dr. King and Brother Malcom are dead, but to the state's dismay, the Resistance lives on. To eradicate the "criminals, thugs, and terrorists" of the Black Panther party, COINTELPRO has perfected the ultimate weapon. People of the black community, some returning from Viet Nam, others pulled off of the streets in warrantless arrests, have been mysteriously disappearing for months, only to return with little to no memory of where they've been. These victims of the classified MK ULTRA experiment have been programmed to self-radicalize and join the Black Panthers. Once inside, COINTELPRO will flip a Manchurian switch, causing these radicals to destroy the Black Panthers from within, using terrifying powers bestowed upon them through medical experimentation. There's just one problem. The switch didn't work as intended...
FUNDED! - $21,000 - "The Missing Women of India" by jim pinto - An alternate setting module about resistance and self-determination in the violent, male-dominated culture of the world's largest democracy. As women from various age-groups go missing, die without ceremony, or fade into the background of society, a new resistance has formed, demanding autonomy for women and threatening to topple a cultural regime of abuse and murder built on centuries of misogynic programming.
FUNDED! - $24,000 - "Chromewall" by Kira Magrann - By 2056, the metropolis of Johannesburg has become a critical hub of the world financial ecology. Corporations and investment firms around the globe will do anything to get in on the action. To be permitted in, they need only execute the regressive agenda of an ultra-conservative South African government. At the government's behest, corporate security firms and private military companies execute violent raids on gay bars and clubs and engage in gaslight campaigns to torment queer community leaders. Under the brutal conditions, a once vibrant community composed of vid artists, street performers, drag queens, activists, fashionistas, and queer folk from Joburg and nearby Zulu territory is at a tipping point. They are just one security raid away from exploding into an all out rebellion.
FUNDED! - $27,000 - "The Battle for Wargrad" by Ben Woerner - The Great World War drags on between the massive war machines of the REICH and the beleaguered but endless tides of the Confederation. During the early days of the war the Ashkenazi, who call themselves the Folk, were rounded up by the REICH and dumped in the bombed out shell of the city of Wargrad. Millions died of starvation and worse, but all hope is not lost. The Feds have pushed within a few miles of the city, and now is the time to rise up and drive out the Amalek REICH and free your Folk from bondage! Fight from house to gutted house. Bring arms, food, and medicine in through the sewers. Let the Feds know you're alive by painting the city red with the blood of the REICH, Yimakh Shemo!
FUNDED! - $30,000 - SIGMATA FM by IRVING FORCE - A soundtrack that will help bring the setting, time period, and tone of Sigmata alive for players. The score will move seamlessly between ambient soundscapes, underground grooves, cinematic pieces, and into all out warfare to reflect Sigmata's scenes of intrigue, stealth missions, and awesome firefights. This work will absolutely reek of 80's dystopia, merging the sounds of vintage synths with more modern production techniques to keep it interesting. Aside from the motifs within the score there will of course also be a bombastic SIGMATA Theme to blast. You will also be able to follow along the writing of the score on IRVING FORCE's live streams.
FUNDED! - $35,000 - "SIGMATA: Repeat the Signal" by Chad Walker - A companion book to "SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists" that is 1) a curated compilation of all stretch goal alternate settings, and 2) a guidebook on creating your own SIGMATA setting, whether it is based on a real people's struggle (historical or current) or something entirely fictional (e.g. an alien invasion campaign swapping the Regime for an Earth-occupation force, or a fantasy resistance campaign trading subroutines and blades for magic spells and alchemical mutations). All backers who have opted for stretch goal rewards (i.e. anything that includes "PDF Plus") would not only get this book in PDF format, but they would also be given a "Print-at-Cost" code for this companion book.
$50,000 - [TS/SCI EYES ONLY. CLEARANCE UPGRADE AT $35,000.]
Resistance HQ (Core Book Contributors)
Chad Walker - Chad is a security professional and an independent game designer. He is committed to using the tabletop role-playing genre as a medium for education and political advocacy, particularly in the realms of cybersecurity, national security, and resistance movements. Prior to "SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists," Chad wrote "Cryptomancer" (2016), a tabletop fantasy role-playing game about cryptography, networking, national security overreach, clandestine tradecraft, and chucking fireballs at orcs. He was also a stretch goal author for Rowan, Rook and Decard's "Spire."
Ario Murti - Ario is a freelance illustrator based in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has been working as a professional illustrator for more than 5 years. His work focuses on game illustrations, sequential art, album covers, and T-shirt design. The style of his art is highly influenced by fantasy and sci-fi art, as well as heavy metal music. His published works include Grimm Fairy Tales (2017), Red Agent (2016) by Zenescope Entertainment, Remote (2016) by Double Take Comics, alongside with other independent comics and game illustrations.
jim pinto - jim is a 20+ year veteran of the gaming industry. He has won numerous awards for writing, graphics, and development. He's tired of writing bios claiming this fact. Just leave him alone.
Comrades-in-arms (Stretch Goal Contributors)
Ishki Ricard - Ishki is an indigenous freelance game writer and developer who has been working in indie games for approximately six years, pushing for better inclusion, accessibility, and decolonization of tabletop role-playing game spaces (see: s-m-a.proboards.com, currently being written into a tabletop RPG). When not busy writing indigenous games, they indulge in mobile games (and reviews), fanfic, and lots & lots of music.
G. Michael Truran - Michael is a librarian at a small liberal arts college in Southeastern Louisiana. When he’s not answering reference questions, mentoring young vampire hunters, or fixing printer jams, he writes table-top role-playing games. Michael has previously worked with Chad on Code & Dagger (a supplement for Cryptomancer) and in co-authoring Siegetech, an upcoming game about late medieval syndicalist revolution and giant-fighting-robots. His solo project, Sword, Axe, Spear, & Shield, is a game about Nordic heroes in conflict with royal authority and a strange new religion. You can learn more about his games at patreon.com/Viking_Powered and on Twitter @Viking_Powered.
Shae' Roberts - Shae‘ Roberts is a veteran of the United States Navy and creative director of Grown-up Games, a transmedia storytelling group that seeks to help people “Dream Better Dreams” through RPGs. His focus as a panelist and convention game master emphasizes the exploration of the human condition through play. The experience he received in the military added invaluable perspective on large scale government operations. When designing settings, he concentrates on infrastructure as foundation, strong narrative backbone, and the application of lateral thinking to bring creativity out of everyone at the table. If you find yourself in the Atlanta area, Shae’s next panel will be in late may at Momocon on alternative games to Dungeons and Dragons.
Kira Magrann - Kira is a tabletop RPG and LARP game designer and a queer feminist cyborg living in Columbus, Ohio. She's been making games since 2012. Games she's recently designed include: Mobilize, a game about lesbian mechanics in WW2 (winner of the IGDN award 2017), Selfie, in the #Feminism anthology (showcased in SFMoma in 2017), and RESISTOR, a collaborative zine about cyberwitches. Kira has a patreon where she's trying to write weird games full time. Please support her at: https://www.patreon.com/kiramagrann Follow her on twitter @kiranansi.
Ben Woerner - Ben is a husband, father, jeweler, and game designer. He kickstarted and published World of Dew, a samurai noir role-playing game along with the companion book Sound of Water. He’s a freelance writer and developer and has worked for John Wick Presents on multiple projects including as a developer on the Ennie Award winning 7th Sea 2nd Edition Pirate Nations supplement. He also wrote on Call of Catthulhu, The Baby Bestiary, Tiny Frontiers, Scion 2nd Edition, and more! He’s a big fan of mitigated success and aspects in game design. He can be reached at email@example.com if you would like to contact him about past or current projects.
IRVING FORCE - IRVING FORCE is an electronic musician from Sweden, heavily influenced by American pop culture of the 80's and early 90's, especially of the science fiction and cyberpunk variety. With a background in metal and a fascination for film scores and video game music his tracks have a tendency to turn dark and aggressive, yet always remain playful, with the visualization of a setting, character, or situation being key. He has released two EPs to date and has a full album coming out very soon. In 2015 he also made a trailer for a fictive film called "The Violence Suppressor" to represent his music visually.
Solidarity! (and Thanks)
In case you were wondering, the song in the promotional video is "Skrik" from the fantastic album "Wintermute" (2011) by Necro Facility. The video itself was directed by Ansel Wallenfang and brought to life by master visual effects artist Katrina Salicrup.
SIGMATA Facebook page.
Follow @Papa_Shell on Twitter and #RepeatTheSignal
The Gauntlet Podcast Interview, discussing Cryptomancer, SIGMATA, the Arab Spring, and Nazi-punching.
Nerdarchy Interview, focusing primarily on how both strategic and tactical game mechanics work.
Stalwart Companion Interview, focusing on game design as a security professional, "ethical insurgency," and radical empathy as a subversive strategy.
RPGnet Q&A, talking about the family-friendly-gamey-nerdy aspects of SIGMATA.
/r/rpg AMA, an "ask me anything" thread about SIGMATA.
More podcasts, webcasts, and AMA's coming soon...
Risks and challenges
Chad's day job is helping a really, really big company manage risk. To ensure the success of this project, he has developed contingency plans should any of the game's core contributors find themselves unable to continue work due to tragic or unforeseen circumstances. He has also kept this campaign simple by leveraging a tried-and-true printing and distribution channel (DriveThruRPG) and sticking to digitally-delivered stretch goal rewards, ensuring that backer rewards will be distributed in a timely and predictable fashion. To mitigate gaps in his crowdfunding experience, he has frequently relied on Jim Pinto, who has launched and successfully funded over a dozen Kickstarter campaigns.
While this is Chad's first Kickstarter campaign, it's not his first rodeo. He delivered "Cryptomancer," a well-reviewed, Platinum Seller on DriveThruRPG, on a shoestring budget after an 18 month development cycle. He is extraordinarily excited to be working again with outrageously talented people, this time on a truly provocative work that he hopes will be a small but meaningful contribution to the fight against fascism and the restoration of sanity to American political discourse. SIGMATA is a project fueled by outrage, tempered by empathy, committed to strategic discipline, and made possible by you.
This Signal Kills Fascists. Repeat the Signal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)